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Candidate Power Returns With A Bang

By June 4, 20156 Comments

Some real life examples of poor manners and behaviour from candidates of ours in recent days:

  • Cancelling interviews one hour prior, via email, because they feel they have “enough options to consider already”
  • Postponing interview via text, never to be heard from again
  • Promising to attend interviews with clients even though offer pending from elsewhere, and then cancelling 30 minutes before interview when expected offer did come in
  • Excitedly agreeing to an interview for a new role in a new sector before cancelling on the morning of interview due to “not wanting to leave IT sector”
  • Wanting to leave current role due to instability and insecurity from new leadership, before changing mind two hours before interview with client after being given a couple of new accounts to work on…

Of course these are all typical travails and frustrations of the ludicrous contingent recruitment model we have built for ourselves.  The annoyance at poor candidate manners and sudden changes of heart exacerbated tenfold by the fact all the work interviewing, assessing, pitching and organising has resulted in no billings and a grumpy client.

Cause, typically, for wild gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair.  But, you know what, after a decade in this thrill ride of an industry I know now that the only way to respond is to keep ploughing on.  Getting too introspective about where it all went wrong is a recipe for disaster in recruitment.  The best recruiters are relentless optimists.  Weary, scarred and occasionally downtrodden, but unfailingly optimistic regardless.

There is no other way to be.  The best you can do is to set your client’s expectations around the new “typical” (not all) behaviour patterns of candidates.  And hey, if they actually trust in the advice you’re giving, it should actually lead to quicker hiring decisions and better billings, right?  One thing is for sure, we are now smack bang back in the times of Candidate Power.

Good talent hold all the cards, and they know it.  A recent survey from PWC revealed that CEOs are more concerned about the impact of a skills shortage on their business than at any point in the last six years.  So us recruiters, obsequious lapdogs eagerly skittering around the ankles of the hiring processes, just have to exert what control we can, but be equally prepared for inevitable disappointment from time to time, and prepare clients for it too.

Or use it to get them to offer more money in a shorter time-frame too, of course.

The internet recently coughed up one of the most striking examples of how good talent regards itself, with this question innocently (but very tellingly) posted to Quora:

What is the best way to start my career: Uber or Zenefits?

Here is the breakdown of the pros and cons:Uber

  1. Uber has people with amazing credentials working there (people from MIT, CMU, Facebook, Google). There is a lot of opportunity to learn from these folks. At the same time, I think that it will be really tough to stand out.
  2. I really believe in Uber’s product. Its a great idea and the thought of what they are planning in the future excites me.
  3. This is the biggest factor for me: Uber has a really good reputation. I think that working at Uber will really help me move to companies like Google and Apple, which is something that I want to do in the distant future.


  1. The biggest con for Uber is that their attitude towards me so far has been: “we don’t really need you. but here is your offer”. They really don’t seem to care as much, and I can understand why. Uber attracts top talent and they can easily find someone to replace me


  1. Zenefits has a great team. I really enjoyed talking to the people. They are people I think I would be more happy to work with
  2. I definitely think I can add more value to Zenefits. I have some great ideas that I will hopefully be able to pitch to upper management.
  3. Upper management is accessible. I can speak to top people (CEO, CTO) which is really nice.
  4. The job itself allows for more creative freedom, and with it more responsibility. However, it isn’t as technically challenging. At Zenefits, I will be more of a developer than an engineer (thats what I think at-least).
  5. Zenefits seems to be really aggressive in trying to keep me. They have tried really hard to make me choose them over Uber. And they are paying me a better salary by about 15k (where Uber completely refused to negotiate).
  6. They also have an office in Canada, and they have promised to relocate me there if I don’t get the H1B visa. When I asked Uber about this, I was told that it depends entirely on the performance review and manager (basically whether I am worth the trouble of relocating). Zenefits seems to be claiming that if I am an employee there, they will help me out and get my back.

This post shot to fame mostly for the fact that the naive but obviously talented graduate had his offer rescinded by the CEO of Zenefits.  But for us in recruitment, however despairingly you might react to the thought processes of young jobseekers today, it’s just the way it is and we have to adapt our recruitment techniques, and consulting advice, accordingly.

Good luck, and try not to grind your teeth down too much.  The next awesome candidate experience will make it all feel so much more worth it again.

Speaking of which, the next #RicePowWow recruitment networking event is almost upon us, and on 25th June we will be hearing from AskNicely about Candidate Experience.  It’s open to anyone in recruitment, you can RSVP here, and I look forward to seeing you there!

Jonathan Rice

Director of New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice & Co, co-founder of freelance recruiter platform JOYN, and people-centric technology firm superHUMAN Software. Recruitment innovator, agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • Brad says:

    Hey lads,

    In reference to recruiters being ever optimistic… I will admit to being a realist and the “ever optimist” being kicked out of me years ago (crikey did he just say that)! I just find that being an optimist in recruitment leads to let down. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a negative as I am positive by nature but thinking the sky is always blue – just isn’t real. We all have our ways of keeping our sanity in this vocation and candidate frustration is something I am having deal with at a surprising rate.

    Unfortunately you lost me with the use of Uber and Zenefits but was quickly brought back to the post through the repetitive viewing of He Man taking me back to my youth. For that very reason – excellent post!


    • Cheers B-Rad, thank goodness for He-Man gifs then! I should have made it clearer but was rushing to get to something else – a grad got a job offer from both Uber and Zenefits and before choosing which to accept publicly posted the above question on Quora. I thought it was a great example of the mindset of in-demand talent these days, and their alarming sense of entitlement and lack of employer loyalty.

      • Brad says:


        You wouldn’t be surprised then if I was to say my school report always stated I could pay closer attention!

        “By the Power of Grayskull…”

        Have a good one mate,

      • pk says:

        Hey Jon – employers have shown an alarming sense of entitlement and lack of employee loyalty for decades, and now that the people (candidates/employees) who add the most value to business, and that employers are continually crying out that they cant find, start to mirror that behaviour, employers can get all up in arms about it?

        • Yes true, but no not up in arms about it, just to realise it as a fact and to adjust your approach to hiring the more in-demand talent accordingly